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The Minnesota State High School League’s Board of Directors approved the institution of a 35-second shot clock for boys and girls basketball starting the 2023-2024 season at its meeting on Thursday, Dec. 2. 

The use of a shot clock for varsity competition will be mandatory starting two seasons from now, while its use at lower high school levels will be optional as long as both schools agree.

“The League’s Board of Directors is grateful to all of the member schools and their administrative teams for the thoughtful reflection and careful analysis in the study of this proposal,” said Board President Tom Jerome, superintendent of the Roseau School District. “Their feedback was essential in the decision-making process. We also greatly appreciate the input of the coaches associations and the other professional stakeholders that put so much time and energy into providing feedback on a proposal that would benefit student participants.”

The adoption of a shot clock has slowly gained momentum over the years, and in the view of Hastings athletic director Trent Hanson, finally reached a tipping point.

“I think what we’ve gleaned over the years, there’s been a lot of straw polling, there’s been a lot of region surveys, there’s been a lot of coaches association surveys,” he said. “There's been an appetite for adding a shot clock for a number of years. It’s not a new thing. It’s a matter of where the threshold is and I think we’re at a point where there is more support broadly and from different groups than there has ever been.” 

Implementing a shot clock at the prep level has been a topic of intense debate over the last several years. It is already at the club-level and the MSHSL previously permitted its use during non-conference and invitational tournament games as long as the competitors and officials agreed and the host site had the capability.

Proponents of a high school shot clock emphasized how it would benefit not only the game but student athletes as well, while opponents cited its cost, logistics and decried the professionalization of prep athletics.

“There are some legitimate concerns. The cost to install the clocks themselves is significant. You also have to identify a table worker to run the clock, someone that you can not only train in, but you have to pay them,” Hanson said about the logistical challenges. “Those are not issues to brush aside, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you start the discussion there, you’ll never get anywhere because everything is an investment, everything costs money.”

From a basketball perspective, both Hanson and Hastings boys basketball head coach Chad Feikema said they are in favor of the shot clock.

“I’m in support of it, I’m an advocate for it,” Hanson said. “The critical question to ask in this case, or any other rule change for a sport, is do we believe it enhances the student-athlete experience, do we believe it’s going to make the game better. “Now that can be a complicated answer, with a variety of opinions, but I think that’s the critical question. I think the belief is there for many, that we do think it’s going to make the game better. And because of that, you kind of figure out the details later.”

Feikema believes that a majority of the game will stay the same, except for the final minutes.

“How games end will change massively and for the better,” he said. “Now you can play good defense for 35 seconds and get the ball back. Otherwise if a team has the lead and has possession with a minute to go, there’s a good chance they’re going to hold onto it. And then you get into the creating chaos, you’re probably going to have to foul. The last three minutes of the game now will be the biggest change.”

He also believes that the biggest adjustment will be for the coaches, not the players, who have grown up watching college and professional basketball with shot clocks, and have played at the club level with them.

“It will be a bigger change I think in terms of high school coaches adjusting to how to handle late shot-clock situations,” Feikema explained. “If you have a shot clock getting under 10 seconds and you haven’t gotten a quick shot, do you have an action you can go to and have you prepared for that, or are you just hoping some kid makes a play and drives to the rim or whatever.”

Twelve other state associations currently use a shot-clock for varsity basketball, including neighbors North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) voted to permit use of a 35-second shot clock when adopted by a state association back in May, but stopped short of mandating one for its members.

Going forward, there are still more questions than answers so early in the process. Each school will have to evaluate how to incorporate the shot clock within their gym infrastructure, the cost, how it will be paid for – entirely by the school, fundraising, help from booster clubs or a combination of each – and whether it makes sense to fold it into a large project. Then there is further guidance from the league and how schools will go about finding people to run the clocks, what training there will be, etc. The planning has only just begun.

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